***Fast forward to 2014. A book called Survival of the Nicest is published by Klein Stefan*****
This is not a post title I thought of, although I wish I had! My brilliant friend and occasional mentor Frank Dunn coined the phrase as a chapter description of a book he's writing to explain life, the universe and everything - mathematically. It describes cogently and succinctly why "Winning by Sharing" is fundamental to human survival and opens with;
One of the key discoveries so far of Complexity Theory is that co-operative processes in general seem far more likely to survive than isolated, rampantly selfish entities. This moves successful evolution away from the original 'principle of natural selection'; which was rather reductionist in that it placed the key stress on individual survival; to a more holistic, symbiotic view of adaptability, wherein survival is a group or team effort.
The examples most often quoted to illustrate this are typically a biochemical feature: an autocatalytic process. There are many groups of proteins within our bodies and those of many other organisms that depend on each other for synthesis and production from their simpler component parts. In other words, they simply cannot survive in isolation; but need to co-exist with each other.
In fact, with hindsight our social history is almost embarrassingly about collective effort, rather than individual triumph: all primates form tribes and engage in degrees of communication; the family 'unit' in primates invariably involves the male as much as the female; ancient civilisations worshipped their ancestors as symbols of the 'collective wisdom' of their culture.
I so hope this book is published. It will rank amongst the most disruptive and thought provoking discoveries in recent times, not unlike Stephen Wolfram's A New Kind of Science.
Recent ground breaking research at the Max Planck Institute used the Ultimatum Game with chimpanzees, the result, reported in Science, is a telling outcome. "A number of researchers in the field of human evolution think that a sense of fairness—and a willingness to punish the unfair even at some cost to oneself—is humanity's “killer app”.
The Economist article goes on to say; "It is what allows large social groups to form. Without it, free-riders would ruin such groups, because playing fair would cease to have any value. Dr Jensen's previous experiments have shown that chimpanzees are willing to punish actual thieves. But his new data add weight to the theory that the more sophisticated idea of fair shares, which underpins collaborative behaviour, appeared in the hominid line only after the ancestors of the two species split from one another."
In other words an individual's sense of fairness is genetic. Of course this is dangerous ground to tread but reading this reminded me of the experiments carried out by Bob Altemeyer described in his book The Authoritarians. This is a fascinating account of the analysis and results of a game he devised for small teams to represent a country or region. The teams choose leaders and negotiate deals for their people. It's a sort of offline version of Microsoft's Age of Empires where 100 years is played out in less than a day. The experiment, carried out hundreds of times in US universities and colleges pitches two distinct types of group against each other; Right Wing Authoritarians (think politicians, leaders, businessmen, petty tyrants) and Liberals (everyone else). With few exceptions, RWAs always end up completely destroying the world. In many cases, the game was stopped early to advise RWAs their course of action would lead to global destruction, and given the chance to restart the game. Guess what? Yep, they destroyed the world again.
So perhaps the future is about Survival of the nicest?